English Ph.D. Dissertations


International Students' Digital Literacy Practices and the Implications For College ESOL Composition Classes

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Louisa Ha (Other)

Third Advisor

Daniel Bommarito (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)


In recent decades, research in rhetoric and composition has identified the trend that college writing classes increasingly require students to compose digitally, envisioning future English curricula infused with multimodal tools and digital literacies. Though there is an emerging interest in international students’ digital literacy practices, not enough research has been done to explore international students’ own perspectives on adopting a digital pedagogy in college ESOL composition classes. Drawing on literature about digital literacy, multimodal composition, computer-assisted language learning, and second language writing, this study investigated the digital literacy practices of international students at American universities through mixed methods, specifically a survey and ten interviews. The study collected quantitative data from the survey and used grounded theory to analyze the qualitative data from both the survey and the interviews. The findings reveal that international students find digital literacy skills essential to their personal, academic, and professional lives. Various digital tools and modalities are used by international students to improve their writing, and they consider social media to be beneficial to their understanding of American culture as well as grammar and vocabulary. In addition, international students construct and negotiate their multifaceted identities on social media while also promoting intercultural communication. In terms of their expectations of ESOL composition classes in the digital age, international students hope these classes can help them transition into American higher education and bridge the gap between their previous writing experience and the American way of writing practice. They expect to learn more about useful digital tools that can help facilitate their writing processes, they are open-minded to multimodal assignments, and they hope to form online writing communities to share their writing with more readers and therefore make writing more meaningful.